MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney now pondering beauty.
JANIE B. CHEANEY: At a church we attended years ago, the annual Christmas concert included singers from the local university. One of the college girls that year had been a finalist in the Miss America pageant. During dress rehearsal an overhead mic needed adjustment, and our Miss America popped out of her seat to do some tweaking. I had a good view from a few rows back, and I remember thinking, “What a pretty girl. What a neatly proportioned body. You did some good work there, God.”
I’m not envious of beauty (or not since high school, when one of my classmates was an actual model, with the coolest clothes). But that was the first time I recall giving praise to the One who designed bodies to be beautiful.
That memory come to mind with an article in Quillette, titled, “The Attack on Beauty”
According to the author, the body-positive movement is teaching young women that the cover-girl ideal is a conspiracy. Every girl is lovely just the way she is. Consider “Scars to Your Beautiful,” an Alessa Cara song with this refrain:
And you don’t have to change a thing,
The world could change its heart,
No scars to your beautiful,
We’re stars and we’re beautiful.
Got that? If the world doesn’t turn its head when you walk by, it’s the world’s problem, baby. You’re a star, and don’t you forget it.
If that message taught young girls to stand up straighter, in spite of acne or bad hair, fine. But rather than confidence, they display whininess, defiance, or destructive behavior, because they’ve been told the world should respond to them in a way it never will.
Pretending everyone is a “star” encourages narcissism: investing in an idealized projection at the expense of one’s real self.
One’s real self could eventually turn into a decent person if it’s not obsessed with imaginary stardom. But if everyone is physically beautiful, then there’s no standard of physical beauty. And we know that’s not true. Even the oversize models I see in poster displays at Penney’s have flawless skin and hair.
In That Hideous Strength, the last volume of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, four of the female characters are dressing for a celebratory banquet. Rather than each picking out her own gown, they collaborate in choosing for the others, and somehow the colors and styles perfectly complement each personality. The dressing room has no mirror; they are not to admire themselves, but each other.
We should appreciate beauty in landscapes and flower arrangements and Miss America contestants. All the more, perhaps, because it’s fleeting: “the grass withers, and the flowers fade.” All transient beauty points to the timeless, original Beauty who made our eyes to observe it and hearts to respond to it. And I think rejoicing in beauty, wherever it’s found, makes us all a little more beautiful.
I’m Janie B. Cheaney.